An Ampersand for the The New Yorker

Posted in graphic design, Life Sucks, Uncategorized by DCroy on 9 October 2013

Ever since I was just a little baby elitist with pretensions to cultural literacy, I’ve revered the The New Yorker’s stable of visual artists; their illustrators and photographers have always been the best of the best. So it was hard for me to criticize the new design. Until I saw this.

Ampersand1

Apparently, the typical New Yorker level of visual quality does not reach the typography department. Assuming there is one, which, of course, there isn’t. But just look at this nightmare: the S’s are tipping over – why? And doubly why considering you know that they will appear to the right of a cap A and be impossible to letterspace correctly. Why the fully round C next to an A (if you can call being two area codes over “next to”)? Why the underlines? Why the angled A crossbars? Why anything that we’re seeing here? Quirks can be great, if they work together for a cohesive whole. These are quirks from the fourth dimension of terribleness, unconnected to anything.

W, as they say, T F.

W, as they say, T F.

I could go on (and on) about the failures of this face, but I think we can encapsulate it with that goddamn ampersand. They didn’t even bother to design one. It’s Caslon for god‘s sake. Look, guys, if you’re going to design a typeface, no matter how badly conceived, and you know that it’s going to need an ampersand, pro tip: make an ampersand. That Caslon & doesn’t match the weight or feel or character of the rest of the letters. Possibly because Adobe Caslon is nicely designed and the other is some weird jumble of half thoughts and regret (at least I hope there’s some regret here).

I hesitate to even show the following, because I disagree so heartily with the whole debacular typeface, but here. Here’s an ampersand. I was tempted to offer it up for free, but screw that – Condé Nast is a giant company, they can buy it if they want. So here you go. If you’re reading this, Condé and/or Nast, and want to make a deal, let me know.

In situ.

Not quite there, but better than nothing.

It matches the angles of the cap A, and it’s not italic, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s not Caslon italic.

The New Art Directors Club Logo is Total Dogshit

Posted in graphic design, Life Sucks, Off Topic by DCroy on 11 November 2009
Pink is the New ADC Logo

The '90's called - they want Franklin Gothic Back

No, it isn’t. It’s not that bad, really. Smack dab in the middle of the road, sure. Boring, even? Yes. But this isn’t about the boring, middle-of-the-road choices that were made, or whether it’s better than Paula Scher’s previous logo. This is about how they screwed up the execution.

The r-t letterspacing is, however, total dogshit.

I don’t know why, but everyone seems afraid to properly letterspace the r-t connection. It’s as though there’s a force field keeping them from ever touching. It’s tricky, I’ll admit, but there are at least two strategies for letterspacing a word with a lower case r-t. This dogshit is now a teachable moment. And we’ll all pause to vomit at the term “teachable moment.”

Option 1:

One option is to keep the force field in place. It’s a bad option, but if you are the sort of a person who, like a chaperone at the junior prom, just is not gonna ever have no letters touching, then go with it. All it means is that the overall tracking will be a little wider.

Force Field Letterspacing

No Touching Allowed

You should treat letterspacing as negative space, not linear spacing between the letterforms themselves. So, if we’re keeping the r-t space (the black line above), we realize how that affects the space between the outer edges of the r and t (the green rectangles above). It’s a difficult area to translate to the other negative spaces in your word, and there’s lots of room for individual interpretation. But it will help pull your mark together into a cohesive design. Unlike the original, which looks like a gap-toothed hillbilly.

Adc5

A Comparison - Mine on top, original in pink, wider tracking in yellow.

Above, a comparison, with the r-t space used as a guide for the rest of the tracking in the mark. The yellow is mine, the pink, original.

Option 2 – a.k.a. the better option:

This one connects the r and t, and allows for a tighter tracking across the mark.

Adc2

Tighter is better.

It requires a little drawing and a little finesse, but it works much better. Nontrivially better. Because I do think the tighter tracking in the original is the better way to go. So, don’t be afraid to have the r and the t touch. Even though, if you compared the r in Art with the one in Director, they’d look different, they are similar enough that the difference disappears. The thing about tricks like this is that, generally, people don’t notice the little cheats. They notice that everything works together better, perhaps in ways they can’t articulate, but better.

Comparison

A Comparison - Mine on top, narrower tracking in yellow, original in pink.

But not to be a total curmudgeon, there is some nice craftsmanship. I’m not sure if they used a different digitization of Franklin than mine, or if it was custom made, but it’s a nice version. I especially like the rounded joins (rather than the angled join shown in the blue circle below) and overall character. Frequently, in a logotype, I’ll sand those edges off, too, because it’s just nicer and adds a little craft to what could otherwise look like just another typed-in word. So, they get some points for the subtleties.

Adc1

Rounder is often nicer.

BTW, I redrew everything in like, nine seconds (because I’m not getting paid to do it), so, yes, it’s not perfect. (Man oh man, the trolls have made me preëmptively defensive. Thanks, trolls). Anyway.

A World in Itself

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 5 October 2009

This isn’t great. Good, but not great. I’m including it because it’s a nice variation on a script. The w especially is noteworthy. But other than that, let’s face it – who gives a shit about New Zealand? Though it would’ve been kind of fun to address a letter to “New Zealand Government” – the whole government – asking about pony treks and hotel amenities.

A tiny, sheep-filled world.

A tiny, sheep-filled world.

Rendezvousing

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 21 September 2009
Nicey nice.

Nicey nice.

Again the hand craftedness is what gets me. That calligraphy Spring, so simply and expressively conceptual, doing what lettering is supposed to do. And, of course, the rest of the headline. The jaunty R is particularly neat.

Ah to be sailing for Paris from New York in 1938.

Ah to be sailing for Paris from New York in 1938.

More info on french line ships here.

Cassandré’s Paradox

Posted in Fortune Magazine, graphic design by DCroy on 15 September 2009

Finally! More scannin’, less rantin’.

What is there to say about this amazing thing? It’s just plain amazing. I almost always hate it when graphic designers talk about themselves as artists. But this is art. Surreal, amazingly crafted, perfect typography.

And it’s for cardboard boxes.*

* Now part of a (formerly) 6 billion dollar conglomerate.

Troubling Signs at the State Capitol

Posted in graphic design, Life Sucks by DCroy on 2 July 2009

Difficult though it may be to believe, I really don’t want this web journal to be only a catalog of failure. But this is just ridiculous.

Bad Lieutenant (Governor)

Bad Lieutenant (Governor)

It may seem like I’m picking on a sign guy who’s just trying to do his job, but what irks me is that doing this correctly only takes about 3% more effort than doing it in the above ridiculously horrible way. I mean (warning, huge digression forthcoming), you have to wonder how it got to be so bad (and I’m not even going to start wondering why they chose Times – a typeface designed specifically for newsprint –  for signage, and moreover for the one place where, if they absolutely had to use a serif, they could’ve gone with the otherwise terribly overused Trajan, which is seen almost exclusively in print). If you think it’s a government job and has no accountability (the Socialist angle), then of course there’s no reason to care about the quality. Similarly, if you think that that 3% of extra effort is 3% that is not specifically earning more money (the Capitalist angle), then there’s of course no reason to care either. So why should anyone care? I’m not sure I know why – just that, for whatever reason, I do (end of huge digression).

But the funny part, to type dorks, is that it’s not even consistently bad (see the green E’s). And, even stranger, is that he got the N’s right, and I’ve made that mistake my damn self. Any way you look at it, it’s a conundrum.

A. As it is; B. Corrected spacing and orientation; C. Comparison

A. As it is; B. Corrected spacing and orientation; C. Comparison

Okay, no more critiques for awhile, I hope. After the 4th, it’s back to good ol’ Fortune. Have a great holiday.

We Now Return You to Your Regularly Scheduled Typography

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 2 June 2009

Apart from the horrible spacing, I love them gigantic dots on the script i. And the Ludlum kind of rocks.

The below appeared as a single line of text, stacked here for enlargement. Having just done a script o, I have to wonder what the guy was thinking in having such an open (and kind of bad) o here. Curious.

And they ain’t kidding about that Pioneers bit – Bessemer steel has only been around since 1855. Still around, too. Merged, but only once (I think).

Black and White

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 4 May 2009
Black & White

Black & White

Black & White – a blended scotch that I don’t think exists anymore. There are really only three liquor companies left in the world and Shaw seems to’ve been bought by one of the at some point and the Black & White discontinued.

Because you totally care.

What’s interesting is how much the headline lettering looks like the faddishly popular (nothing wrong with that – I like it, too) font by Hoefler and Frere-Jones called “Gotham.”

It surged to prominence along with the Senator from Illinois, I think. But wierdly, H&FJ claim that their inspiration was signage, not print. Not that I care – design is a daisy chain of influences, and it’s not like they stole this, crudely digitized it, claimed it as their own and didn’t credit the original, like that other Obama-related design.

But they are danged close. Again, I don’t think it means anything in particular. Just an interestingish coincidence.

Above is the ad, below is Gotham (with a much better ampersand, btw).

B&W&H&FJ

B&W&H&FJ

Weird

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 29 April 2009

It’s not really the finer champagne unless there are only two champagnes. Or unless they’re saying that there’s just no way this could be considered the best of all champagnes.

Finer

Finer

Either way, I have no idea if this is Veuve Clicquot or what. I’m not sure Jos. Garneau ever imported the Veuve Clicquot we all think of when we see that c-q right next to each other; and it was a company otherwise known for crazy bottles that – let’s just say “elegant” isn’t the word. And it’s not mentioned in this amazingly detailed article on the purchasing of Garneau as part of the long march toward world domination of Brown-Forman. You all know B.F., of course, as the makers of Jack Daniels (really? that just seems weird to me – that JD is just one flavor in a giant beverage portfolio, as Snapple is just one flavor sitting next to Clamato and Diet Rite under the Dr. Pepper umbrella).

After all that, I’m not sure why I bothered to scan this boring thing. Nice c maybe. I don’t know. And speaking of that, here’s another thing that I don’t remember the rationale for wanting to scan:

Al

Al

The Chief

Posted in Fortune Magazine by DCroy on 28 April 2009

A Cautionary Tale About Connecting Script Letters

Remember when travel wasnt a sentence in hell?

Remember when travel wasn't a sentence in hell?

It’s almost like it was done as a group project in a sheltered workshop for insane typographers. The Chief’s E is just whack. And where did that “to” come from? That said, this type salad doesn’t bother me: perhaps it’s too freighted with the romance of rail travel’s heyday for me to ever be able to see it clearly. Harvey House Dining Cars!